March 10, 2015

Asking someone's age is considered taboo in polite society, and the Social Security Administration appears to have been taking lessons from Miss Manners.

An audit conducted recently by the SSA's inspector general revealed that the agency "did not have controls in place to annotate death information," putting the government at risk for fraud and waste.

CNS News reports that social security numbers of some 6.5 million people born in 1901 and before have been used to open fraudulent bank accounts, while thousands of others have been used by undocumented immigrants to apply for jobs. One person, for example, opened a bank account with a SSN of a person born in 1869.

According to the Washington Times, Sens. Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.) and Tom Carper (D-Del.), leaders of the Senate committee to oversee the SSA, issued a joint statement in reaction to the report. "It's incredible that the Social Security Administration in 2015 does not have the technical sophistication to ensure that people they know to be deceased are actually noted as dead," Johnson said.

Carper added that these types of "avoidable problems waste millions of taxpayers' dollars annually... expose our citizens to identify theft, [and] also undermine confidence in our government."

The auditors suggested that the SSA correct the inaccuracies, but the agency protested, saying "the recommendations would create a significant manual and labor-intensive workload and provide no benefit to the administration of our programs."

The SSA says it will work to prevent multiple people from using the same SSN. Teresa Mull

8:31 a.m.

Most Americans are closely following the public impeachment hearings and believe the actions by President Trump that spawned them were wrong, a new poll has found.

In an ABC News/Ipsos poll released Monday, 70 percent of Americans said they believe Trump's actions tied to Ukraine were wrong. This comes after the first week of public hearings in the official impeachment inquiry, which is examining Trump's efforts to push Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son.

Of the 70 percent who say Trump's actions at the center of the inquiry were wrong, 51 percent say he should be impeached by the House of Representatives and removed from office by the Senate for them, while 13 percent believe his actions were wrong but don't support impeachment and removal, and another six percent believe they were wrong and support impeachment but not removal. Twenty-five percent of Americans believe Trump's actions weren't wrong.

Asked how closely they've been following the House's impeachment hearings, 37 percent said they've been following them somewhat closely, while 21 percent said they've been following very closely. Forty-two percent said they aren't following them that closely or closely at all. Twenty-one percent of those polled also said they made up their mind about whether Trump should be impeached and removed following this first public week of hearings, although 78 percent of those polled had already decided before the public hearings began, including 32 percent who had their mind made up prior to September, when the news about the whistleblower complaint concerning Trump's Ukraine actions was reported.

The ABC News/Ipsos poll was conducted by speaking to a random national sample of 506 adults on Nov. 16 and Nov. 17. The margin of error is 4.8 percentage points. Read more at ABC News. Brendan Morrow

7:15 a.m.

Ford on Sunday unveiled its all-electric 2021 Mustang Mach-E, an SUV based on the automaker's new EV architecture. The Mach-E marks an attempt to expand the appeal of the iconic Mustang and lure in a new generation of buyers. The Mach-E is the first Mustang that isn't a two-door sports car.

The vehicle, with a starting price of about $44,000, is part of Ford's $11 billion effort to introduce 40 new electric and hybrid models by 2022, reports CNBC. Ford said the Mach-E would get 210 miles to 300-plus miles on a charge, depending on the battery option. The Mach-E's performance and price will rival Tesla's Model Y SUV. Ford CEO Jim Hackett said the Mach-E also will have the company's new hands-free driver assist system, similar to Tesla's Autopilot and Cadillac's Super Cruise systems. Harold Maass

7:12 a.m.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Sunday said that President Trump was welcome to testify in the House impeachment inquiry. If Trump has information to clear himself "then we look forward to seeing it," she said on CBS' Face the Nation. Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said if Trump wants to counter testimony suggesting he abused his power by withholding military aid to pressure Ukraine into investigating Democrats, "He should come to the committee and testify under oath. And he should allow all those around him to come to the committee and testify under oath," The Associated Press reports. The remarks came ahead of the House Intelligence Committee's second week of public impeachment hearings. Trump's ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, is one of the people due to appear this week. Harold Maass

6:48 a.m.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) made a linguistic shift from "quid pro quo" to "bribery" last week. She explained at a press conference Friday that when discussing the possible impeachment of President Trump, often "we're talking Latin around here," from "'E Pluribus Unum,' from many one," to "quid pro quo," but "bribery" is actually "in the Constitution attached to the impeachment proceedings." It is also English, which is helpful for explaining things to an English-speaking electorate. But in the same press conference, Pelosi dipped into Latin derivatives — and then explained what she meant to an audience of one.

"If the president has something that is exculpatory — Mr. President, that means you have anything that shows your innocence — then he should make that known and that's part of the inquiry. And so far, we haven't seen that, but we welcome it."

Pelosi, like any Catholic who grew up before Vatican II, could probably figure out what "exculpatory" means without having to consult a dictionary, but she is likely right to assume that Trump, raised in the Presbyterian tradition, has never uttered the phrase mea maxima culpa. So in an interview with CBS's Margaret Brennan for Sunday's Face the Nation, she broke down "exculpatory" into its Latin roots for any president who might be watching. If Trump "has information that is exculpatory — that means ex, taking away, culpable, blame — then we look forward to seeing it," Pelosi explained.

In both interviews, Pelosi also argued that Trump has already admitted to offenses worse than those that drove Richard Nixon to resign. So perhaps she is hoping that Trump, confronted with the prima facie evidence of his actus reus, will reflect on his culpability ex post facto, when he is president emeritus. Peter Weber

5:16 a.m.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky did not announce an investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden or his son Hunter Biden before President Trump's administration belatedly released Ukrainian military aid on Sept. 11 — a point President Trump's Republican defenders frequently raise to dismiss the House impeachment inquiry. But Zelensky had been prepared to capitulate and announce the investigations in a Sept. 13 interview with CNN's Fareed Zakaria, The New York Times reported. On his show Sunday night, Zakaria recounted his "best understanding of what actually happened."

"Ever since Zelensky was elected president in April, my team and I have been interested in having him appear on the show," Zakaria began. "On Sept. 13, I met with Zelensky in Kyiv on the sidelines of a conference I was participating in. He came across as smart, energetic, and with a much sharper feel for politics than you might expect from a neophyte." In their "brief conservation," they discussed Ukraine's issues with Russia and the U.S. and also corruption, he said. Zelensky seemed "a bit distracted," but "it's a testament to Zelensky's skill that he did not let on in any way the immense pressure he was under" from Trump and his allies.

Zelensky apparently decided he would announce the Biden-linked investigation during an already scheduled interview with Zakaria, "though neither he nor any of his team ever gave us any inkling of that," Zakaria said. The contours of the pressure campaign were starting to sharpen in early September, but "just imagine Zelensky's dilemma. By the time I met with him in Kyiv, he knew the aid had been released but the backstory had not yet broken into public view," and Zelensky's aides said at the time they were unsure why the aid was suddenly unfrozen," he said. When The Washington Post revealed the plot on Sept. 18, "the interview was called off — we are, of course, still trying to get it." Peter Weber

4:02 a.m.

John Oliver spent the bulk of Sunday's season finale of Last Week Tonight on something that will take place before he starts filming his next season: The decennial U.S. census. "The concept of the census is very simple," he said. "At the start of each decade, the government does a comprehensive count of every single person residing in the United States — not just citizens, not just voters, every single person. Because only by knowing how many people live where can communities effectively plan to provide things like roads, schools, and emergency services."

"However hard counting every single person seems, it's actually much harder," Oliver said. "Conducting the census is the largest and most complicated peacetime operation that the government undertakes, and the 2020 census is likely to be even more challenging than usual, for reasons ranging from budget shortfalls to active Republican meddling. So tonight, let's talk about it. And let's start with what questions are actually on the census, because a lot of people don't know what they are — and that very much includes the current president."

Oliver ran though the simple list of questions, listed some reasons people refuse to provide the government that basic information — there's a quick trip down a libertarian YouTube rabbit hole — and laid out why participation in the census is so important. He recapped the flap about the citizenship question President Trump wanted to add to the 2020 census, explained how it was revealed to be explicitly driven by a scheme to entrench Republicans in power, and lamented that the damage might already be done.

"All in all, there is a lot working against this census, and experts are worried an undercount next year is inevitable," possibly by millions of people, Oliver said. "So what can we do?" Fill out the census, mostly — and he gave some incentives, ending with how much your participation would "irritate" Trump. There's NSFW language. Watch below. Peter Weber

2:55 a.m.

A handful of Republicans went on the Sunday talk shows to defend President Trump after a rough first week of public impeachment hearings.

On Fox News, Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) argued that Democrats shouldn't impeach Trump for a scheme to withhold military aid from Ukraine until its president publicly announced investigations into Joe and Hunter Biden and the Democratic National Committee, because "it didn't happen" and "Ukraine got the money." Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio) told CNN that "it is not okay" for a U.S. president to even "raise his political opponent" in a phone call with a foreign leader, but it's also not "scandalous" because Trump acknowledged doing it when he released the partial transcript of his July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky.

On NBC's Meet the Press, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) lamented the "damage that's being done to our entire country through this entire impeachment process" and argued that "it's going to be very difficult for future presidents to have a candid conversation with a world leader, because now we've set the precedent of leaking transcripts" — an apparent reference to the White House's own transcript release. The whistleblower who flagged concerns about that call, and the subsequent public revelation of the behind-the-scenes struggle over Ukraine military aid, "has exposed things that didn't need to be exposed," Johnson told host Chuck Todd.

"You seem to blame this on everybody but the president," Todd said. "I'm not blaming anybody, Chuck," Johnson replied. "Isn't the president's own behavior, which raised all of these yellow and red flags, isn't that why we're here?" Todd asked. Johnson said the whistleblower's lawyer has been advocating for impeachment since Trump's inauguration, Todd noted that Johnson suggested Hillary Clinton's impeachment before the election, and Johnson brought up former FBI agents Peter Strzok and Lisa Page. Johnson, protector of things that needn't be exposed, has released a year of Strzok and Page's private text messages. Peter Weber

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